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Clearing the sick-leave fog at work

A certificate from a medical practitioner is counted as legitimate grounds to miss work.

My firm, over many years, has witnessed many examples of employee ingenuity in seeking to justify absenteeism on grounds of legitimate sick leave, submitting fraudulent medical certificates in the process.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, in section 23, outlines the requirements for legitimate and acceptable medical certificate qualifying an employee to be paid statutory sick leave.

In short, and employee is obliged to furnish a legitimate medical certificate “if the employee is absent from work more than two consecutive days or on more than two occasions during and eight week period” [s.29(1)].

Furthermore, “the medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner or any other person who is certified to diagnose and treat patients and who is registered with a professional council established by an act of Parliament”[s.23(2)].

Further guidelines relating to the issue of genuine medical certificates as contemplated in section 23 of the act can be found in Rule 15 of the Health Profession Council of South Africa’s Ethical Rules, which provide that “a practitioner shall only grant a certificate of illness if such certificate contains the following information:

a) The name, address and qualification of the practitioner.

b) The employment number of the patient (if applicable).

c) The date and time of the examination.

e) Whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observations by the practitioner during an examination or as the result of information received from the patient, which is based on acceptable medical grounds.

f) A description of the illness, disorder or malady in layman’s terminology with the informed consent of the patient, provided that if the patient is not prepared to give such consent, the medical practitioner or dentist shall merely specify that in his or her own opinion and based on an examination of the patient, the patient is unfit for work.

g) Whether the patient is totally indisposed for duty or that the patient is able to perform less strenuous duties in the work situation.

h) The exact period of recommended sick leave

i) The date of issuing the certificate of illness.

j) A clear indication of the identity of then practitioner who issued the certificate which shall be personally and originally signed by a registered medical practitioner.

Such certificated are not admissible if they are signed by unregistered nurses or other such clinic or hospital staff.

Finally, it seldom does any harm to contact medical practitioners to verify medical certificates. The response to certain enquiries of this nature can be illuminating.

  • Book now for Tony Healy’s SETA-accredited “Conducting Disciplinary Hearings” workshop (August 26 & 27) by calling 011 476 120 or visit can follow him on twitter @tony_healy. 

Source: Tony Healy The Star

Last Updated on 10 July 2014 by HPCSA Corporate Affairs